The British government will not influence or pressure the Sri Lankan government on its political or constitutional affairs, a visiting British Minister assured.
British Minister of State for Asia at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Hugo Swire, addressing a press conference in Colombo before his departure, said the UK government will neither pressurise nor influence the Sri Lankan government on the formulation of a new Constitution but welcomes the government’s initiative in changes.
The Minister said he is encouraged by the progress Sri Lanka has made under the President Maithripala Sirisena’s government in human rights situation in Sri Lanka.
He said the United Kingdom has much to offer and it is determined to assist Sri Lanka in future. He also pointed out the importance of establishing a non-residential Defense Attaché to support Sri Lankan military reform.
UK Prime Minister David Cameron in November last year offered Sri Lanka £6.6 million over three years to help the country to continue its recovery from the long civil war.
Swire also assured that the UK government will extend its assistance, if there is a move to amend the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). He added that Sri Lanka in future could face problems arising from international terrorism and if the need arises, the UK will assist in drafting the new law.
Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe yesterday said the existing Prevention of Terrorism Act was outdated and a new bill will be drafted by the middle of this year to successfully face threats of international terrorism in future. The new bill will be drafted in line with the law already activated in the United Kingdom, he added.
The British Minister, who arrived in Sri Lanka on 14 January, visited the North with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to participate in National Thai Pongal day celebrations in Jaffna.
While in Jaffna, the minister held talks with the Chief Minister of Northern Province C.V. Wigneswaran and discussed land issues and a long-term political solution to the ethnic issue.
After meeting with the civil society leaders and human rights defenders in Jaffna and discussing the reconciliation process, Swire commented that he is positive about the government’s efforts but faster progress is needed.
Swire, accompanied by the British High Commissioner in Colombo, James Dairies, also met with the families resettled after demining and then went on to observe the Thai Pongal rituals.
Back in Colombo today, the Minister visited the Kelaniya Temple and held discussions on religious affairs with the Chief Prelate of the temple. In a twitter message, the Minister said he had an “encouraging discussion on interfaith dialogue with the Chief Priest.”